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A linesman holds a puck in the air to signal a face-off as the Boston Bruins play the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of their NHL Eastern Conference Finals hockey game in Boston, Massachusetts May 23, 2011. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (ADAM HUNGER)
A linesman holds a puck in the air to signal a face-off as the Boston Bruins play the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of their NHL Eastern Conference Finals hockey game in Boston, Massachusetts May 23, 2011. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (ADAM HUNGER)

Roy MacGregor

Something seems amiss in the puck world Add to ...

When I departed this continent not so long ago, the Detroit Red Wings were on a roll and Henrik Sedin was invisible; now Henrik's on a roll and the Red Wings are nowhere to be seen.

Must be a grand Stanley Cup playoffs.

It is also, however, spring, a special time of year treasured in Canada as much as it is in Paris - where I happened to be to celebrate a family marriage - and it was pretty obvious that any suggestion there that we head inside on a sunny afternoon to watch TV would have been met with a dismissive wave of the hand.


There was a comment during Sunday afternoon's match between the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks in which viewers were expected to feel for Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo, who has a certain routine he likes to follow each day before playoff games.

Well, who doesn't have a certain routine this time of year? Canadians want to be out biking, gardening, canoeing, walking, even slapping black flies on a lovely afternoon during a rare long weekend.

There should be a clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that prohibits the national game from being played at such inappropriate times.

After all, we have NHL hockey a ridiculous nine months of the year; we only have a pocketful of glorious spring afternoons in an entire lifetime. To ruin two such afternoons in a single weekend, as happened Saturday and Sunday, is simply unacceptable.

NBC, which recently signed a 10-year $2-billion deal with the NHL, is obviously calling the shots, but NBC did not invent afternoon hockey. That credit goes to CBS way back in 1957, when the Chicago Blackhawks met the New York Rangers in a regular-season game.

CBS bullied its way to the nap-time time slot, but the league balked at the network's request to rip off those iconic jersey crests and have numbers front and back of the players to help their play-by-play announcer.

If only the league had said "No" to the entire idea.


The playoffs are surely a different test than regular season - as shown each year by such surprising tales as Chris Kontos scoring nine goals in 11 games for the Los Angeles Kings in 1989.

This year's equivalent, obviously, is Tampa Bay Lightning's Sean Bergenheim leading the playoffs in goal scoring after a career in which he attracted so little attention only his parents knew he was a Finn.

Bergenheim, however, was a fairly high draft pick, 22nd overall in 2002, something that cannot be said for a surprising number of other stars in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.

In fact, the results so far bring into question just how prescient can be a system that purports to project what an 18-year-old kid will be when he reaches his prime.

Of the top 10 scorers, three - Tampa's Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell, San Jose's Dan Boyle - were never drafted at all. Two others, San Jose's Ryane Clowe and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk were drafted 175th and 171st, respectively.

Henrik Sedin, the leading scorer, went third overall and his twin Daniel second. Joe Thornton and Vincent Lecavalier were both No. 1 draft picks.

As, of course, was Luongo, who seems on the verge of delivering on that great early promise.

But what of the other top goalies? Tampa's Dwayne Roloson and San Jose's Antti Niemi were never drafted. Roloson's effective backup, Mike Smith, who started Monday night's game against Boston, went 161st. Boston's Tim Thomas was a 217th draft pick while Nashville's brilliant Pekka Rinne went 258th. In fact, the closest a top 2011 playoff goaltender comes to Luongo in draft terms is Detroit's Jimmy Howard, who went 64th overall in his draft year.

Maybe longtime hockey executive Cliff Fletcher wasn't all that wrong when he scoffed "draft schmaft" about the critical import of making the right decisions on 18-year-olds.


One can only wonder what Lord Stanley of Preston would make of that Budweiser ad starring his beloved trophy.

Back in 1892, the then Governor-General offered Canada a cup that he insisted be a "challenge trophy" that should be no one's permanent property but would be awarded to the top "amateur" team in the country.

So much for challenges; so much for amateurs; so much, it once seemed, for ownership.

But back in the 2004-05 lockout year, Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, acting on behalf of her long-deceased predecessor, challenged the National Hockey League's presumed ownership of the cherished trophy, stating that, in her opinion, "The Stanley Cup belongs to the people of Canada."

The GG's call to arms was taken up by a group of Toronto recreational players, several of whom happened to be top-notch lawyers, and they took the league to court. Though the league initially dismissed the court action as frivolous mischief, the lawyers arguments - helped along with impeccable research by hockey historian Paul Kitchen - eventually gained an out-of-court agreement in which the league essentially agreed that Clarkson had been correct.

That being the case, we can only assume the performance fees and residuals due Lord Stanley's mug for this demeaning beer commercial will be handed over to the Receiver General.

In trust, for the people of Canada.

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